Braveheart Women’s Society: Coming of Age in South Dakota
The Braveheart Women’s Society, a group of Yankton Sioux grandmothers and tribal elders, have re-established an almost forgotten coming of age ritual for young girls—the Isnati, a four day traditional ceremony on the banks of the Missouri River in South Dakota. The girls learn to set up their own teepee, collect traditional herbs and flowers used for remedies. They are not allowed to touch food or feed themselves for four days; they are fed and given water by their mother or other women at the ceremony. They are being treated as babies for the last time in their lives. One of the grandmothers makes each girl a special dress. On the last day of the ceremony, the girls, one at a time, go into the teepee with their mother or their auntie who bathes them and dresses them and does their hair. The elder tells the girl stories about what she was like as a baby, how beautiful she is and about the hopes and promises for her future.The girls prepare sacred ceremonial food and feed their community. She’s given a new name and is presented to the the community as a woman.